In mid-July this year, my business partner Dan "broke up" with me, for lack of a better term. He realized that he no longer wants to be a business owner and that he was more interested in the benefits of working from home/being one's own boss, rather than the actual reality of it.
Fair enough. So we amicably agreed to go our separate ways.
The last few months have been pretty tough. As much as we're still friends, and as much as I understand where he's coming from, and as much as I think this a really good thing for both of us, it's still been challenging to deal with it all.
In the interest of transparency and sharing the frustrations of being a business owner as well as the benefits, in this blog post, I want to share with you some of the things I've been working through as a result of the business partnership break-up...
What's happened as a result of my business partner breaking up with me:
- It's been an emotionally exhausting experience.
I expect that in any situation where a business partnership dissolves, it's emotionally exhausting. When you consider that the business partner has been one of my closest friends—and we're close friends with each other's spouses—and we're all in the same tight-knit group of friends—this just added a whole other layer to it.
It really has felt like a relationship break-up. I've been feeling all the feelings and processing so many different emotions (sometimes within a very short timespan) that it just leaves me very tired. I've also found myself having numerous days where I did nothing but sob into my pillow. It's been difficult to not let this experience affect my emotions and mood in other areas of my life as well.
- I've had something of an identity crisis.
When we decided to start the business together, it was with the idea that this was it. Juxta Communications was going to be our long-term, lifelong business. I had come to terms with no longer being a solopreneur, and had embraced my new identity as a business partner.
...So discovering that the plan I'd thought was in place essentially for the rest of our lives was no longer going to be the case, meant I had to shift back into the identity of being a solopreneur.
This isn't a bad thing at all! But it was absolutely an identity crisis. And since I already had an identity crisis about a year ago when I realized I'm polyamorous, that just made this whole year even that much more intense.
- I got pretty worried from a financial standpoint.
Perhaps this was due to a misunderstanding, but towards the end of June, the business partner and I agreed that we needed to find at least one more client within the next month. I was under the impression that he was taking on that role, but shortly thereafter, he realized he didn't want to be in business anymore. And a few weeks later when he "broke up" with me, I found myself in a position where I didn't have that additional client that we really needed from a financial standpoint. It was something I'd been counting on.
Frankly, being in a business partnership was the first time in years that I've had less financial security rather than more: we were focused on building the business (and, of course, the income brought into the business was portioned out between us, rather than me taking home everything I earned). Realizing the amount of money I could have saved and earned on my own over the past year was a little demoralizing.
- There were very real physical consequences.
I had the scariest experience of my life last month: I was working on business transition stuff, and suddenly it all got extremely overwhelming. My heart was pounding in my chest and I felt lightheaded enough that I thought I was going to pass out. It felt as though my heart was going to explode.
I thought I was having a heart attack... and I thought to myself, "Maybe I should go to the hospital." Then I realized that I wouldn't be able to make it to the hospital. I remember thinking to myself, "This is how it ends. I'm going to collapse on the floor of my condo and die as a result of this business."
That's when I dialled 911. They sent a team of paramedics immediately, who were extremely kind, caring professionals. They ran a few tests and calmed me down—all the test results were normal, so they think I was simply having an extremely intense panic attack (I'd had a few panic attacks in the past, but not for many years, and nothing on this scale).
Luckily, I haven't had that happen again! But since then, I've been very cautious and careful to be mindful when working on business transition stuff to ensure it doesn't happen again.
- This has affected possible collaborations.
One of the first questions I got from a long-time blog reader, when I first started talking about the business partnership break-up on social media, was, "Do you think you'll go into a business partnership with someone else in the future?"
I literally laughed out loud when I saw that message, because my response was a very strong NO. (Mr. Science has gently reminded me that everything is still raw right now, and I might feel differently in the coming years, ha.)
In August, I had an opportunity to co-author an article with another one of my besties. It could have been an amazing opportunity for us and a lot of fun to write it together—and she really wanted me to do it—but this whole experience has really turned me off wanting to do any kind of work with friends. So that's been an unfortunate side effect.
What happens when your business partner breaks up with you? @Saganlives shares her experience...
- It's shaken my confidence and trust.
Last year, I was so sure and confident that this business partnership would be the best idea. I've always thought of myself as having excellent judgment. To have the rug pulled out from under me was distressing in part because it made me question my own judgment. Of course, I learned so much over the last year that perhaps the business partnership was exactly what I needed to get to where I'll need to be in the future!
The other piece of this is that I'm very reluctant to let anyone anywhere near my business right now. I've had some lovely offers from various people to help me out with the excruciatingly tedious and lengthy process of shifting everything back over from our business partnership branding to my original SaganMorrow.com branding, but I don't want anyone touching my business after this experience. So I'm doing all the internal stuff on my own.
- I've learned a lot.
This past year in a business partnership was a chance to take a really good look at my work style from the perspective of collaboration. It gave me a chance to consider new ways of looking at work-life balance, to take better control of the organizational side of a business, to consider how to manage and delegate tasks, and so on.
I'm definitely not perfect! And my intention with sharing all of this here is not to lay blame on my ex-business partner. Things happen: businesses fail and partnerships fall apart. I have plenty of weaknesses, and part of what I learned from this whole experience include the things that I can do better from a management perspective and as a collaborator.
As challenging as the dissolution of the business partnership has been, and as much as it sucks to have a failed business, I absolutely do not regret doing the business partnership.
- It's been an amazing opportunity to start fresh.
The business partnership dissolution truly hasn't been a "bad" experience! There have been some definite drawbacks (as outlined above), but there have also been a lot of fantastic benefits. One of those is the ability to start fresh, to reassess how I do things and what I want from my life and business, and to apply the things I've learned.
For example, I opened up a new business bank account. I changed the way I manage my finances. I decided to do a complete content audit of this entire blog (yes: every single one of my 400+ articles!). I began writing and publishing novels.
Turning this experience into a series of new opportunities has been wonderful and invigorating.
I'm really big on letting ourselves feel our feelings, and being open about how we feel. It's important not to gloss over things when we're grieving. We need to give ourselves permission to feel the pain and experience the frustration, because that is how we learn to get through it.
Nothing in life—or in business—is going to be all sunshine and roses. And that's okay! Just keep in mind that it's okay to have a crappy time. It's okay to cry into your pillow. It's okay to tell people that you aren't okay right now.
Because ultimately, you can and will get through this. And you'll come out the other side that much stronger and better! The challenging times in our lives might test our resilience, but we've got this.